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  • Ride in the Rain, Cycle in the Snow

    Posted on April 23rd, 2017 admin No comments


    Or, I Wish You Had Been There!

    Our Meetup ride around the Leduc Multiways was a great ride — too bad nobody came!

    I biked from home to the parking lot that was the trailhead, and  waited from 1:45 to 2:20. My apologies to Joan, Deloris, and Catalina if they arrived after I left . I was dressed warmly enough that, with everything zipped up, I was not cold as I waited in the wind shelter of a dugout at the ball diamond, in sight of the parking lot.

    After it was clear that no one was coming, I went for a ride by myself, and  was a nice enough ride.   By then, the multiway paths had been either cleared or had melted clean, and the wind had died down enough not to be much of a nuisance.  I had one fewer layers than I wore this morning, and was totally toasty but not too warm for the entire ride.

    Test Your Cycling Gear

    Deliberately riding in inclement weather is excellent training for both how you dress and how you ride.

    You get to test your gear, to see how things work.  Too cold?  Maybe one more layer.  Too warm?  Open the neck or pit zips, or strip one layer.   Wet feet?  Maybe better footwear or rain booties needed.   Cold head?  Maybe a skull cap, or masking tape over the helmet vents.  Getting wet?  Either you are sealed up too tight in waterproof gear (aka portable sauna), or something leaks.

    What about your bike?  How does it handle snow or puddles?  Are you comfortable with how it handles?  Can you manage the gear changes required?  How do your brakes hold up when wet (stopping takes a lot longer!)?   How wet will you get from splash back from the front wheel?   Does your back fender or trunk bag stop water from giving you a wet stripe up the back?

    Test Yourself

    You also get to challenge yourself, to learn how to handle adverse riding conditions.  It’s important to know what you can stand and what you can stand up to.  It’s better to do this deliberately — as a training exercise, on a local ride where you can head for home or the car quickly if something is amiss — rather than run into bad weather on a longer trip where you’re unprepared and have no easy out.  Knowing that “I’ve handled worse than this in training!” makes it easier to cope with what the sky throws at you.

    If you’re packing your gear, this is a reality check — how quickly can I access my rain gear and get into it?  Is what I need readily accessible?  In this as in most things, practice and experience pay off.


    Personal experience:  a ride like today’s, in +2C with light snow and wind, is far more pleasant than riding in light rain.  Riding in heavy rain, even if you’re well-equipped and properly prepared, can be kind of a drowner.  Uh, downer.

    Other Ideas


  • Shopping for a 1-Person Backpacking Tent

    Posted on April 21st, 2017 admin No comments

    When I was younger, I did a bit of bike touring and backpacking with my kids.  I toted a three-person tent for them, and a bivy shelter for myself.  Had thought for years about getting a light-weight 1- or 2-person tent and getting back into it.  But the wife isn’t into that kind of camping (her ideal is to camp in a motel) and I kept putting it off.

    This summer, I have the opportunity to do a bit of touring with Circuit Cycle and Sports in Millet, who is organizing a bunch of trips.  This gives me a chance to revisit the light tent idea.    For the first trip, there are four possibilities:

    1. Drive my current 4-person dome tent to the destination and leave it there, bike to the campsite, ride back, then drive back to the camp and retrieve the tent.  A bit of organization and time required, but only cost is for gas.  This is a good tent with full fly and huge vestibule: I can stand up in it, there’s lots of room for gear or a roommate if necessary.  Hey, I can pre-deliver lawn chairs, a table, all the comforts of car camping!
    2. Use my current “emergency” bivouac, which consists of a “survival blanket”  (from Survive Outdoors Longer),  a lightweight nylon tarp for a ground sheet, and bits of rope and parachute cord.  I’ve used this system for years for winter camping where mosquitoes aren’t a problem.  With a bit of mosquito netting, I could  probably make this work (and mossies usually go to bed shortly after I do!).   Total mass including cordage less than 0.8 kg, cost was about $25 total.  These things live in my day pack (in various iterations) and have seen emergency use over the years.

      SOL Sport Utility Blanket and a general-purpose waterproof nylon sheet

      SOL Sport Utility Blanket and a general-purpose waterproof nylon sheet

    3. Purchase a used tent.  I found a bottom-end 2-person tent by Escort for $10 at the local Second Glance store, the kind with a handkerchief-sized fly that lets the rain in when you open the door and bleeds moisture in through the fabric wherever you touch it.  Since the trip will probably be cancelled for inclement weather, this would do, but I really don’t like that kind of tent on general principles.  Still, price is great.  Mass about 2 kg, surprisingly low.    I also found a rather large and somewhat hefty used  2.5 kg Cabela 1-person tent on kijiji.com for $150.   Tempted by that one, despite its relatively high mass.
    4. Purchase a new tent.   Ah, but what to buy.   Prices range from cheapie Chinese knockoffs for under $100 to high-end ultra-light technical marvels in the $800+ range.

      Wind-Wing 1 by Korean manufacturer Naturehike

      Wind-Wing 1 by Korean manufacturer Naturehike

    I can afford good quality, and I generally try to buy the best gear that I can afford — but can I justify it for a few occasional uses?   I’m not apt go get seriously back into either bike touring or backpacking because I currently have no one to go with, and it worries my wife when I head off on my own (unhappy wife, unhappy life).

    In the end, I narrowed my choices to the entry-level Naturehike Wind-Wing 1 from GearBest in China ($102 delivered, complete with footprint; 1.7 kg) , and the mid-priced Spark 1 from Mountain Equipment Coop ($299 delivered, footprint extra $32, total mass 1.3 kg)

    MEC's Spark 1 is a mid-priced 1 person tent

    MEC’s Spark 1 is a mid-priced 1 person tent

    Naturehike is a Korean company specializing in outdoor merchandise.   Their products are generally well-reviewed and they appear to be reasonably well-made.   Nobody is going to pretend that they’re similar to a Big Agnes or a MSR Carbon Reflex, but for a starter tent it looks like a reasonable choice at an attractive price.

    Mountain Equipment Coop is local, and there’s some merit to spending my money in Canada.   MEC offers a rock-solid guarantee and I was really tempted by the Spark 1 tent.  It’s a bit larger and roomier than the Wind-Wing, is 400 grams lighter, and might be a little more compact when packed (hard to tell from the online images).  But at more than three times the price, it seems a bit high for “I’ll try this to see how I like it”.   If I were younger, or if I had a travelling companion, and knew I were going to be doing a lot of light-weight travel, I’d get the 2-person Spark 2.

    But life is what it is, and for now I’m on my own or going with a group.   Today I put in the order for the NH Wing 1 and paid a little extra for tracked air shipping and delivery insurance, for a total of $102 CAD. Watch for a review soon.


  • Snow Cycling on Leduc Multiway

    Posted on April 15th, 2017 admin No comments


    My friends Brian and Teresa at Circuit Cycle and Sports in Millet have organized an exciting schedule of rides for this spring and summer.  Today’s ride, the first of the season, was rescheduled because of weather (temp -2C, 5 cm of snow) but I went anyway.  And hey, it wasn’t that bad.

    From our front porch Friday morning

    From our front porch Friday morning

    I’m training for the Leduc-Camrose MS Ride, and just generally trying to get back into shape, so I’ve made a point of walking for 30 minutes and cycling for at least 30 minutes each day.  Why let a little snow stop me?

    Yesterday I was on the streets, getting splashed by passing cars.  I wore five light layers and was comfy, having to unzip at the neck a couple of times when I was working hard.    Today, being lazy, I wore a mock turtleneck, a zippered hoodie, and my winter parka.  And oy, was I warm! By the time I got home both parka and hoodie were unzipped to my navel and I was pretty soggy with perspiration.

    At the trailhead.  Leduc Common in background.

    At the trailhead. Leduc Common in background.

    I  first took out the off-road bike (Rockhopper), but before leaving the yard I switched to the Peugeot, my town bike, because it has fenders and wouldn’t splash up onto my clothes.  Unfortunately, it also has  2.5″ tires with a street tread.   Slip sliding away!

    There was nobody at the trail head (I was a little late; they may have come and left), so I took a selfie, trying to catch Leduc Common in the background, then set off.  Parts of the multiway were plowed, making my ride easier and drier.  But the unplowed parts were a bugger!  Over 5 cm of wet, sticky snow to plow through.  Often with a headwind to boot!

    Parts (but not all) of the multiway were plowed

    Parts (but not all) of the multiway were plowed

    Rather than follow the scheduled twelve-kilometer route, I just rode my 30 minutes and pulled in to home.    In some ways, it was harder than yesterday’s ride because of slogging through the snow.  At one point, my front derailleur was so clogged with mud and snow that I couldn’t downshift to go up and over a railway crossing.  Darned near had to hoof it, but did manage to bull through and didn’t skid out.

    All in all, it was a decent ride.  Being on the multiway meant I wasn’t on the road being splashed by passing cars.  It wasn’t that cold.  I could have dressed a bit more sensibly, but  sweaty  is good, right?  It means I was working and burning calories.  Normally I’d avoid getting that damp in the winter due to the risk of hypothermia, but for a short ride close to home, I wasn’t worried.

    You may be thinking, “Idiot could have dismounted and walked through the snow-covered parts.”    Sure I could.  But that would have felt like cheating.

  • Bicycle Touring Workshop with Ed Weymouth

    Posted on April 9th, 2017 admin 1 comment

    Bike Touring Workshop

    Hosted by Circuit Cycle & Sports, Millet
    April 9, 2017
    Featuring Ed Weymouth, Trip Leader for Edmonton Bike & Touring Club

    Ed jumped around a bit during the course of his interesting and entertaining presentation; these notes represent my attempt to organize the material. Any errors or omissions are mine.

    Ed Weymouth

    Presenter Ed Weymouth (Image from LinkedIn)

    General Considerations

    • Regardless of type, duration, or destination, any bike tour will be constrained by three considerations: time, cost, and health. The tour must fit your available time and budget, and must be doable in terms of your age, experience, and ability.

    • Always advise people of where you are going, whether it’s a group tour, a solo tour, etc.

    • keep notes of some sort — a blog, a diary, a trip log

    Types of Touring

    • Supported vs Unsupported riding – a supported ride has a vehicle (SAG wagon, Support and Gear) to carry heavier gear such as sleeping and cooking equipment. In an unsupported ride, the cyclist carries everything.

    • Group vs. Individual Organization – a tour group sets the itinerary, overnight stops, etc. and may provide bikes and other gear for a fixed price. An individually organized tour means the cyclists can adjust their schedule, stay longer in some spots, etc. Tour companies may also assist in self-directed tours.

    • Camping Tour – — the cyclist totes everything for overnight camping, meals, etc. at a campground. A common and inexpensive way of touring

    • “Credit Card Touring” — cyclists simply carry spare clothing and maintenance equipment, but stop at a hotel or B&B for the night. Often the most expensive option.

    • Free Stay Touring — sites such as couchsurfing.com and warmshowers.org assist cyclists in finding hospitality stays with local residents. Free on a “pay it forward” plan. Sounds like fun.

    • Stealth Camping — the cyclist sets up camp at any convenient spot, rather than in an actual campground. Usually fine if you clean up. Perfectly acceptable in some ares, perhaps considered trespassing in others. Another low-cost option.

    • Radonneuring — sometimes considered to be a type of touring. Also known as Audax in some countries, this is a sport where long distances (200 km up) must be cycled in a specified time.

    Preparing for a TourCircuit-Cycle-logo-final

    Once you’ve decided on your destination, route, budget, etc. there are many things to do before the actual tour

    • Get yourself in shape — ride enough that you will be able to handle the tour — “toughen your butt” to the saddle

    • Get your bike in shape — new tires & tubes, have it tuned up, gears adjusted, chain cleaned & lubed and all that

    • Acquire the equipment you need, including racks, panniers, clothing, etc. (discussed elsewhere)

    • Field test your setup and do some practice runs. If you’re camping, do some local overnight trips.

    Gearing Up

    • What to take depends on your type of touring, but gear good for a three-day trip is also good for three months or more

    • Check online for kit lists — see the online resources section.

    • There are three factors to consider: weight, volume, and cost. Light, small, and compact all cost money. Big, bulky items are harder to pack. Heavy items mean harder pedalling and make hills a greater challenge.

    • Places to carry include handlebar bags (easily accessible for oft-needed items such as camera), front rack & panniers, rear r1ack & panniers. Include frame bags, underseat bags etc. for small items. A “trunk bag” may ride atop the rear rack separate from the panniers.

    • It’s important to have waterproof storage (not just water repellent). A dry-bag such as used by kayakers and canoeists is useful, but plastic bags inside the panniers work okay too. Waterproof pannier covers are also available. Tuck your passport [or your dry socks] into a zip-lock sandwich bag.

    • [Ed didn't mention it, but I think suitcase packing systems (nylon compression bags) and stuff sacks look useful for organizing your gear in a pannier]

    • A BOB (“beast of burden”) trailer may be useful if you need to carry more gear.

    • Balance is important. Weight needs to be properly distributed between front and rear and side-to-side. An unbalanced bike may be hard to steer and difficult to manage. It may take several re-packings and test rides to get this right.

    • Take spares — Things will shake loose, fall off, get lost… Take nuts, bolts, a tube, a brake cable.

    • Have repair tools and know how to use them. Know how to replace a tube, adjust your gears, adjust your brakes. [Take Brian's repair courses!]

    • Clothing selection – look for items that will wick perspiration, go lightweight, use layering. Again, there is a trade-off between cost, weight, and bulk.

    • Rain gear is a challenge and often acts as a sauna. Gore-tex may not “breathe” fast enough for a hard-pedalling cyclist.

    Navigation: Old vs New

    • Old-school navigation uses paper: bike tour books, maps, activity guides and such. Handle bar bags still have waterproof see-through top pockets for these materials.

    • New-school navigation involves electronics: GPS units, smart phones, tablets, and internet sites. It’s a wireless world, and these methods work reliably even in many “third world” locations. Euroveloroute.com is a site Ed recommends.

    Banjo Bros.  saddlebag panniers.  Image courtesy Circuit Cycle & Sports

    Banjo Bros. saddlebag panniers. Image courtesy Circuit Cycle & Sports

    Overseas Touring

    Getting your gear overseas can be a challenge. Airlines limit the size, weight, and amount of gear you can take on board. For bike touring, there are five choices:

    1. Pack your bike (and other gear) in a bike box for air freight. Boxes are available at bike shops and moving companies. This involves removal of seat/post, pedals, and sometimes front wheel as well as loosening and rotating the handle bars. Be prepared to have Customs open the box to examine it; carry duct tape and use nylon straps to re-seal the box. A recent alternative to the box is a heavy plastic bag; because customs officials can see into it, it needn’t be opened; but some feel it does not protect the bike as well as a box.

    2. Have your local bike shop pack the bike into a box or bag. Ed says the cost is around $50

    3. Rent a bike at your destination. [Many bike rental shops will also rent racks, panniers, tool sets, helmets, and other gear; will adjust the bike to your body; will perform a pre-trip tuneup.]

    4. Travel with a group tour that also provides bicycles and other equipment as part of the tour price.

    5. Buy a bike at the tour start, and either take it home with you at the end or arrange to sell it at trip’s end.

    Plan Your Dream Tour

    Ed asked us to think of our dream tour — where we would love to go with our bikes.  I guess mine would be Europe (I had booked a bike tour in Copenhagen as part of a cruise last year, but the tour company came to the wrong dock and I had to miss it).  Maybe another time.

    Online resources mentioned by Ed:

  • 101Hero Hacks: Cooling Fan Extended

    Posted on January 26th, 2017 admin No comments

    The 101Hero printer is basically –especially in its early release versions — a toy for those who like to tinker.   Its low cost and simplicity led hundreds of backers (perhaps even thousands) to choose it as their first 3D printer, only to discover that it had many shortcomings.

    One of the things users established early on is the need for some kind of fan system for cooling the print.   The earliest and simplest method was to set a small fan onto the work surface.   A second version was to add small CPU fans to the print bed.   Our third try was to add a cooling fan to the print head, as is the case with larger delta printers or cartesian printers.

    The First Head-Mounted Fan

    My first try at a head-mounted fan was moderately successful, but not quite as good as I had hoped.   The fan did work to cool the layer just laid down.   However, it was unidirectional, blowing only from one side. I felt that it could be improved by changing the vent into a ring that surrounded the nozzle to blow down onto the print from all directions.   This is a design that is commonly used on other printers, and many examples can be found on Thingiverse and other download print sites.

    Ring around the Nozzle

    My first thought was to find such an example, and modify it.  For example, here’s a nice ring I remade from Thingiverse.  It’s based on no particular Thing as the ring is part of numerous remakes; 1995668 is pretty close.  Using the free 123D Design software, I scaled it down to 3 mm high so it would fit under the 101Hero’s print head, and edited it to fit my duct.   However, I was never satisfied with any print of this ring that I was able to make on the 101Hero.

    A cooling ring with vent holes

    A cooling ring with vent holes

    Ironically enough, I may be able to print it with the present version of the head-mount fan!  I’ll have to revisit this project when I get back from vacation in April.

    Extending the Groove

    My second attempt was to make a simpler version of  the above in 123D Design.  The ring is basically a torus turned to a shell, with holes drilled at an angle.  This project turned out to be beyond my design skills at the present.  Besides, it’s already been done in the nice photo above.

    The third idea was to just extend the downard-pointing groove at the end of my present model, to create a kind of circular groove.  Of the several ways I could think of to do this in 123D I probably chose the most difficult.  I managed to combine concentric cones to get the result I needed:

    A ring with a groove pointing down

    A ring with a groove pointing down

    I redid this from scratch to fix some failings in the first versions, such as smoothing the interior walls considerably.  Initial tests showed that the groove was too wide, making it only slightly more efficient than the previous straight version.     Which led to this iteration:

    Narrower groove with center diverter

    Narrower groove with center diverter

    You can see that the groove is narrower, and I’ve added a diverter in the center to direct the air more around the sides.  Had to leave on holiday before I was able to print this, but I’ve put the file up so other users can test it out for me.  If you make one please let me know in the comments on this post.

    And today, I found Thingiverse 6173 which is remarkably similar in approach.   I could probably have hacked that Thing and saved myself a lot of work.  But I did learn a lot about design and using 123D, so the time was in no way wasted!

    Further Reading

  • 101Hero Cooling Fan: Proof of Concept

    Posted on January 18th, 2017 admin No comments

    The last test has been completed, and I’d say the cooling fan hack is a success!

    Climbing the Eiffel Tower

    One of the earlier prints I did with the 101Hero was a series of Eiffel Tower models, from Thingiverse.   There were tower models I liked better, but this one seemed simple and within the ability of the 101Hero 3D printer.

    The Eiffel Tower model

    The Eiffel Tower model

    They were generally good for the first  30 mm, but after that degenerated into a twisted, molten mess.  The diagnosis was excessive heat.

    101Hero Red PLA; two in Silver RepRap PLA

    101Hero Red PLA; two in Silver RepRap PLA

    • The first treatment, reduced print temperature, was not much better.
    • The second treatment a 2″ (40 cm) fan beside the print bed to provide cooling, was more successful.  The print was reasonably good to 50 mm, with less twisting and globbing in the upper tower.
    • The third treatment, using a “cooling tower” to print beside the model, was less successful.  Excessive stringing made one corner of the Eiffel tower a mess, and in all was not as good as the previous print.

      Printed with cooling tower

      Printed with cooling tower.  Best side shown at right.

    Adding the Head-Mounted Cooling Fan

    The final test of this  project was to print an identical tower using only the head-mounted fan for cooling.  I scaled the height of the model to 75 mm, which was the measured height of the earlier series.  However, I did not duplicate the settings of those earlier models (I have learned a few things since then).  Being a bit impatient, I set layer height to 0.2 mm to reduce print time (this also seems to have resulted in the model being 80 mm tall).  I used support touching the buildplate, and a raft, because some of those earlier towers had lost a leg and suffered other detachment errors.

    The print went almost perfectly to about 65 mm.  At that point, the behaviour of the head changed, and instead of printing a bit and waiting, it began running continuously.  I could actually see the head dragging the molten plastic in a small circle.  Five millimeters later, the head went back to printing a side, waiting, printing a side, waiting….   This seems almost to be a setting error, one I might be able to track down in the gCode.

    Test Results:  Left, head-mount fan; center, bed-mount fan; right, cooling tower


    Test Results shown above: Left, head-mount fan; center, bed-mount fan (red feet tell you it was done right after the set done in red 101PLA); right, cooling tower.  Dang, it’s in sharp focus on my computer, even zoomed in.  Why is it soft-focus here?

    The final proof - identical settings, on left with fan, on right with no fan.

    The final proof – identical settings, on left with fan, on right with no fan.


    Woohoo!  The head-mounted fan created the best-looking print.  We’ll call this a success!

    But this isn’t the end.   Ideas for the future:

    1.   I might want to extend the duct to move the vent about 1 mm closer to the extruder nozzle.
    2.  Another possibility is to add a ring-shaped vent to surround the nozzle.  However, my first attempts at this failed, since this project was done at about the limits of accuracy for the 101 Hero.  Doesn’t mean it can’t be done.  Just means I couldn’t do it a few weeks ago.
    3. I might wait until my next printer comes, and print another fan system in ABS
    4. The little rotary fan really doesn’t move much air (1.2 litres per minute).   If I can find a small centrifugal “squirrel cage” fan it might improve the cooling.
    5. I’d like to experiment with an aquarium blower, which pipes air through a tube.  I’m thinking a 1/8″ metal ring around the nozzle, with holes drilled for the vents.

    Lots of fun still to come.

    Further Reading

  • Hacking the 101Hero: Testing the Head-Mounted Cooling Fan

    Posted on January 17th, 2017 admin No comments

    Earlier, I wrote about experiments I did with building a head-mounted cooling fan for the 101Hero.   It’s in place and running now, so it’s time to finish writing up the project.

    I use HVAC (Heating, Ventilating, Air Conditioning) terminology here.   The plenum is the upper part, which contains the fan, and gathers and directs blown air into the duct.  This is the narrower tube that guides the air to its destination.  The vent is the aperture or opening at the end of the duct that directs air forward and down around the print nozzle.   These parts can perhaps more clearly be seen in the earlier article.

    Making it Airtight

    Because I had printed this to be lightweight, I used a print height of 0.1 mm, with side/top/bottom layers of 0.8 mm (along with a slow print speed, very light support, and 20% infill overlap).   The result was that the plenum (the part that holds the fan) and duct (which leads the air around to the nozzle) were basically a mesh that leaked air everywhere.  I tested this by blocking the vent with my finger and blowing into the plenum.

    Fan housing with fan temporarily attached

    Fan housing with fan temporarily attached

    The inside surfaces were a bit rough, and I wondered about mixing white glue and water and pouring it inside to smooth the surface and improve airflow, but the thing is just so dang small!   I was afraid the glue would block off the duct.  The best I could do was cut a little strip of sandpaper to run back and forth inside the duct, and scrape the inside of the plenum with the square end of a small file.  After cleanup, tThe two parts fit well together; I glued them with CA glue.

    Then I mixed up some five-minute epoxy (JB Weld brand) and carefully smeared it all over the outside of the assembled fan unit.  I used this epoxy because it is both heat resistant and fireproof.   It took two coats to completely seal all the leaks.  So much for light weight!  It might have been better to print a sturdier part in the first place!  Or maybe use spray paint…   Then I sanded it a bit, especially the top of the duct that had to rest against the bottom of the print head.  I might have to sand more for a better fit.

    Another view of the fan and housing

    Another view of the fan and housing.  The “ears” had no epoxy.  You can see sanding on top of the duct (lower left) and the tape sealing the fan in.

    The fan dropped nicely into its bracket atop the plenum, but there was still a little air leakage around the fan frame, so I roughly sealed it with  transparent tape for the trial runs.  I also snipped off the tiny electrical connector and soldered on a two-pin job to hook up to the 5V power supply unit (PSU) that had been running my LEDs and print-bed fan.   While I’m using the head-mounted fan, I’ll have no lights, and the little head-mount unit will be the only cooling fan.

    Printing Results

    With the fan running, there’s a reasonable amount of air coming out, directed at the recently laid layer, about 3 mm back of the nozzle.  This was about where I’d wanted it.

    Since I had 101Hero gold filament in the printer and wanted to print some gold vases, that was where I started.  The purpose of these tests was to determine if

    1. the duct would clear the print
    2. not interfere in any way with the print process
    3. provide reasonable cooling

      The print from the front; the red arrows indicate the location of the vent

      The print from the front; the red arrows indicate the location of the end of the duct; the vent is on the bottom

    There was no off-switch in the experimental setup, so I unplugged the PSU for the first three (bottom) layers.  Once the walls of the vase (50 mm diameter, 95 mm high) started to print, I plugged in the PSU and left the print to run.   No issues, and fewer hairs than usual, despite the number of times the head criss-crosses the diameter of the vase (I don’t know why it can’t just go around the outside, but it doesn’t, it does part of a wall, then crosses over and does part of a wall on the other side, then comes back and does more on this side….)

    Duct circled in red.  The air blows to the right and down in this image.

    Duct circled in red. The air blows to the right and down in this image.  The nozzle is at the left edge of the print, about 3 mm from the vent.


    Success So Far

    The duct is narrow enough that it clears the print, and did not in any way interfere with the process.  The print result was as good as those done with the more powerful 40 mm bed-mounted fan.  There were a couple of holes in the side walls.  This had also happened even worse with the BotFeeder translucent white, but not with the RepRap silver.  I think this is just a difference in filament quality.

    Here you can see the entire fan unit.

    Here you can see the entire fan unit.  It’s not actually touching the print.   And yes, that’s a hole in the wall of the print.

    The second vase in the series was printed oval, 60 mm x 80 mm x 50 mm high.  The extra width was to see if the suspension arms would hit the fan unit (they didn’t) and the reduced height was just to make sure I didn’t run out of filament and to keep the print time down.  This print showed considerable stringing and gobbing, suggesting that the cooling was not sufficient.

    The Next Series of Tests

    There was no heat damage to the vent area, so I might re-position the duct closer to the nozzle.  I’ll also better seal the fan housing into the plenum so that all air blown by the fan goes down the duct and out the vent.

    The real test, of course, will be something tall and spindly like an Eiffel Tower, or a good test print like a Benchy.  I’ll run those tomorrow using the silver RepRap PLA.




  • MS Bike 2017

    Posted on January 17th, 2017 admin No comments

    I’ve signed up for the 2017 Johnson MS Bike, Leduc to Camrose.   This will be my second participation in this 160 km event, and I’m looking forward to it.  (Circumstances prevented my riding in 2015 and 2016.  This year I just said “circumstances be danged — I’m gonna ride!”).

    Several of my friends have been diagnosed with MS — the disease is surprisingly common in Canada.  In fact,  Canada has the highest rate of multiple sclerosis in the world  (Did you know that you are 13 times more likely to develops MS here than in Argentina, for example?)  The highest rate in the world — and as yet, no one knows why.

    But we’ll find out why.  We are also home to some of the best MS research in the world, thanks to the support of folks like you. MS research has changed people’s lives, and researchers are working hard to find a cure for the disease.

    Gear Up to Ride

    Gear Up to Ride

    I’ll be riding to raise money to help my friends and every other Canadian living with MS.    Proceeds raised fund both world-class research and innovative programs and services across Canada.   By supporting me in MS Bike, you make this research possible.

    Every little bit helps in the search for a cure, and you can help #endMS by donating.

    About Multiple Sclerosis

    MS is currently classified as an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord). The disease attacks myelin, the protective covering of the nerves, causing inflammation and often damaging the myelin. Myelin is necessary for the transmission of nerve impulses through nerve fibres. If damage to myelin is slight, nerve impulses travel with minor interruptions; however, if damage is substantial and if scar tissue replaces the myelin, nerve impulses may be completely disrupted, and the nerve fibres themselves can be damaged.

    MS is unpredictable and can cause symptoms such as extreme fatigue, lack of coordination, weakness, tingling, impaired sensation, vision problems, bladder problems, cognitive impairment and mood changes. Its effects can be physical, emotional and financial. Currently there is no cure, but each day researchers are learning more about what causes MS and are zeroing in on ways to prevent it.

    About the MS Bike Route

    The MS Bike series is the largest event of its kind in North America, and the Leduc-Camrose ride is the largest in Canada.  There are many rides, and some cyclists participate in more than one ride.

    MS Bike, 2014

    MS Bike, 2014

    • Leduc to Camrose and Return
    • Route Length(s): Approx. 80km/day
    • Early Check-in Date: June 5 & 6 & 9 | June 7 & 8
    • Early Check-in Time: 9 am – 6 pm | 9 am – 8 pm
    • Ride Dates:  June 10-11, 2017
    • Start Time:  07:30

    About Fundraising Goals

    The Leduc-Camrose run is apparently the largest event of its kind in Canada.  Last year, some 3000 cyclists and teams collectively raised over $2,000,000.   We hope to match or better that this year.  We know times are tough for a lot of folks in Alberta these days, but things are even tougher when you have a debilitating disease like MS.

    Every cyclist will be riding to contribute to the overall goal.  My personal goal is $2000.  That’s a tiny fraction of the total , but every bit helps.  If  I have to talk to 200 people to get $10 each, that’s fine (a few at $50 and $100 is even finer, of course).   All I ask is that you give whatever you feel you can spare to help out.

    I’m just getting started and have already reached 5% of my goal!   With your help, I’ll get there.   With our help comes help for MS sufferers.

    How to Contribute

    You can donate online by going to my Participant Center and clicking “Donate Now”.

    Further Reading

  • 101Hero Hacks: Control Board LEDs

    Posted on January 9th, 2017 admin No comments
    When I mounted the control box to a pylon, I moved the factory LED to the other side so it would be visible from where I sit. Since then, I’ve been annoyed that this LED is also on when the USB cable is plugged in, so I can’t easily tell at a glance if I’ve remembered to turn off the printer. I have to come up and check the switch, what a chore! Or unplug the USB cable, even worse!
    The first hack -- move the LED from bottom right to top left in the image

    The first hack — move the LED from bottom right to top left in the image

    Adding a Power LED – First Try

    I figured the factory LED was run off 5V — there are two 7805 voltage regulators on the board and the LED appears to come right off one of them — and that I could just put another LED across 12V off the power switch to ground. And that worked fine — turn on the switch and the new LED lights up. There’s my power-on/off indicator.
    To my surprise and annoyance, that LED also lights when just the USB cable is plugged in — just like the existing LED.
    I would have thought the 12V power supply would be totally separate from the 5V USB and UART. As far as I can tell (can hardly see the traces, let alone track them), there’s only a 1000u cap across the inputs before the voltage regulators.

    Second Try — Using 5V from the USB Cable

    The USB jack also has 5V at pin 4 supplied by the hero board, rather than from the computer. So much for an indicator across pins 1 and 4 there.  It’s always on when the power’s on.  It’s always on when the USB cable is connected.  It’s the same as the existing factory LED.

    A Standby Indicator LED

     For now, I’ve put a small green LED from ground to the unused third pin of the switch. It glows when the printer is OFF, a kind of “safe” or “standby” light.   It’s drilled through the top of the case and is readily visible.    I used a 470 ohm resistor but in retrospect a 1K resistor would have been fine — the LED doesn’t have to light up my office at night.
    Location of the standby LED, held in place by the resistor

    Location of the standby LED, held in place by the resistor

    Both LEDs

    Both LEDs in place

    Switch off, standby LED on

    Switch off, standby LED on


    Not quite what I’d wanted, but it met my goal of indicating that the printer/board is powered down.
    Further Reading
  • Limitations of the 101Hero 3D Printer

    Posted on January 9th, 2017 admin 1 comment

    In one video I watched recently, the presenter (I think it might have been Angus Deveson, Maker’s Muse) commented that some 3d printers are toys while others are tools.   The first kind are hobby machines for playing around with, good for making nick-nacks and gizmos and toys, while others are are more work machines, good for creating useful objects, prototypes, and replacement parts.

     101Hero:  Toy or Tool?

    My 101Hero is an improvement over its predecessor, the Makerbot Cupcake.  Still, the 101Hero, like most other inexpensive  definitely falls into the toy category.  Perhaps more than some, the 101Hero suffers limitations that fix it more firmly as toy than tool:
    • structural considerations
    • quality control
    • speed limitations
    • size limitations
    • printing limitations

    Structural Considerations

    Tools are made of metal, toys are made of plastic.   The 101Hero is injection-molded.  The plastic pylons have some triangular reinforcement and are reasonably stiff.  The plastic base and top are not; they flex.   The machine is ok if you don’t disturb it at all, but don’t move it or even bang the desk or table while it’s printing. Doing so will guarantee skipped or offset layers.  Even a heavy tread on the floor can be enough to disrupt a print.


    Poor Quality Control

    Beyond the usual late delivery and poor communications characteristic of struggling crowd-funded products, 101Hero seems to suffer an inordinate number of QC issues.  Shipping seems to be slowly catching up, with the colored models finally reaching backers. However, the official web page and official Facebook page contain no news for backers at the time I write this.
    Users report missing parts, incorrect colors, doa controllers, defective stepper motors, broken gears, warped or loose slide rods.  In an “Unofficial” Facebook post dated Dec 8, one user stated “I was just successful in requesting a refund from indiegogo. They canceled my backing since it had not shipped yet. They said in an email they are overwhelmed with a flood of complaints of broken units, wrong units shipped and no customer service to back the product

    The creator has publicly stated that delivery is their main priority, which puts  customer relations a distant second.   While this may be short-sighted, it does show some determination to get the product (whether it works or not) out to backers.  Probably their thinking is that once the headaches of delivery are gone, they may have time and energy to devote to customer service.

    Speed Limitations

    Delta (three-sided) printers are supposed to have advantages of speed.  Where even a mid-level printer will print at 50 mm/s or more,  the Hero has a top speed of 14 mm/s, with reasonably good printing coming at 10-12 mm/s.  Many users have reduced the speed to as low as 5 mm/s in an attempt at better quality.   In consequence, print times of eight hours or more are common.     The 101Hero, if designed to be used by children, will definitely teach them patience.

    352 Elephant, courtesy of 101land.com

    352 Elephant, courtesy of 101land.com

    ; Build Summary for 352 Elephant
    ;   Build time: 8 hours 2 minutes
    ;   Filament length: 9340.8 mm (9.34 m)
    ;   Plastic volume: 22467.20 mm^3 (22.47 cc)
    ;   Plastic weight: 28.08 g (0.06 lb)
    ;   Material cost: 1.29

    Uneven Printing Across the Print Bed: Size Limitations


    Wide prints simply do not work, because the printer cannot follow a straight flat line from one side of the print bed to the other:  it arcs or rises over the center.   Hannes Brandstätter-Müller of Austria posted on the 101Hero Unofficial Facebook page:  “I encounter the same lifting in the center when doing wide movements. It’s annoying…”

    An adjustment that lays a good first layer in the center 50 mm will drive the nozzle into the print bed at the perimeter.  An adjustment good at the perimeter will not attach in the center.  My first thought on noticing this was that somehow the glass print bed had warped, an unlikely notion quickly dismissed by checking with a steel straightedge.

    This inability to do a wide print appears to be a weakness or flaw of the firmware that effectively limits the print diameter to at most 80 mm (roughly half of the 150 mm build plate).  The only workaround is to modify the print file — divide it into two smaller parts that can be printed in the center.

    It appears that the creator-supplied models will fit within this small central diameter and provide reasonable results.  It’s only user-created parts or wide parts imported from other sources that will be problematic.



    If you want a sturdy machine that will work out of the box, get something else.  The 101Hero is an inexpensive toy for printing toys.  It falls into that class of 3D printers that is to play with, not to work with.   It’s a machine for those who are prepared to tinker, fiddle, diddle, and hack.


    Further Reading

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